A truck stop held an important place in my childhood. On the way home from my family’s annual camping trip to Big Basin Redwoods state park, we would eat at a truck stop near Tracy, California. That place was the real deal–on the side of a busy highway with a parking lot full of semis. I always ordered a roast beef sandwich with gravy and a coke; I thought it was sumptuous. I looked forward to eating at that truck stop all year.
This past week, my son Ben Popik and his wife, Joanna Hutko Popik, opened a Truck Stop of their own on Ambergris Caye, Belize. It’s a cross between a group of food trucks and a food court, with four beautifully repurposed shipping containers outfitted as restaurants: one Malaysian, one Asian Fusion, an ice cream shop and a bar. It includes a deck over the water, tropical plants, a fire pit and (coming soon) a bocce court. The local press got a preview last week and, as you can see from this sample review, the response was enthusiastic.
Belize is a small Central American country formerly known as British Honduras. It has been independent since 1981. The official language is English but on the streets you can hear not only English but also Spanish, Mayan and Creole spoken. Ambergris Caye is a lovely island with the world’s second largest barrier reef just off its coast. Last week, I tooled around San Pedro Town in a golf cart, picking up last-minute items for the Truck Stop. The pace is slow. There is no way a person can make a “quick stop” at a store. However, it is so hot here that there’s no inclination to move quickly anyway. San Pedro is a small, friendly place and, as in all small towns, everyone knows everybody else’s business. I introduced myself as Ben’s mother and by the end of my first day of errands, when I got to the hardware store, the clerk was calling me “Mommy.”
For several days my husband and I have been soaking up compliments from the locals about what a great son we have. It’s easier to accept a compliment gracefully when it’s only indirectly about you. I’d like to take all the credit, but there is the Nature vs. Nurture question, so I left that alone. Saturday the Truck Stop had a “soft opening” and customers poured in to enjoy spring rolls, arepas, ice cream, mojitos and lots of other tasty food and drink. I thought about what a long way I’ve come from Tracy to Belize. It’s taken a whole generation to turn a truck stop into something truly sumptuous.
It’s that time again. Please “Like” the blog on Facebook, recommend it to your friends, and for heaven’s sake, buy a copy of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate.